Chazot Thoughts 77


“Some walks you have to take alone.” (S. Collins)


Once, he shared a memory of Lafayette, grazing quietly in the field. He had a young horse who was so “friendly” but also insecure, that he was pushed away and even hurt by every horse because of his incessant need of physical contact. His hope was that Lafayette who was the patriarch of the group would be kind with the young horse and may be taught him about respecting others space. The young horse almost jumped out of his halter running as fast as he could toward Lafayette. As he approached, Lafayette raised his head, looked at him, and the young horse slammed the break, starting to graze at ten respectful feet.

This morning, a woman arrived unannounced asking to watch the training. He politely told her that it was a private facility and that he liked to train his horses alone. As we walked toward the ring, we realized that the woman was following us. I stopped and we both looked at her. I don’t know if it was the way I looked at her or the way he looked at her but she “slammed the break” and turned around. We both had Lafayette in mind; some walks you have to take alone.

The time we spent together is important for both of us. It is our time, we dear it and have no desire to share it. We both feel that we share enough through the studies and lectures and all activities of the science of motion to have this time for us. As we work, we are concentrate on each other. It is the pleasure of our relation. He guides me toward sophisticated coordination of my physique and I further his insights finding, through subtle coordinating of my deeper systems, easier ways to execute advanced moves. I enjoy furthering my body control. I enjoy thinking and I love these sessions where he helps me furthering my balance control. Balance is a subject that I love exploring because it is never ending. It is a delight to feel that I can place my legs where I want; I can ease ground contact; I can increase my airborne phases, and I can do that effortlessly. I feel that I almost defy gravity. I do enjoy the feeling and find each session a more efficient way to “levitate.” Of course, I don’t “levitate”, but I better store and better use elastic strain energy.

He wrote on the grave of his late canine friend Bretelle, “I wanted to be with him and he wanted to be with me; so, we never needed any training.” Bretelle was a Boxer and this though is exactly the way I feel about my training sessions. Of course I need training; I don’t have naturally the reflex coordination that are needed for complex athletic performances. It is the way I learn these complex orchestrations of my physique that makes our relationship special. He does have in his mind the body coordination that I need to achieve to master the athletic requirements of the performance. As we walk through the ring, he listens, through the way I walk, any possible muscle soreness or other protection. Often, he does not decide the program of his training session until he ask me to “collect” which in his mind means coordinate my back muscles for both, forward movement and balance control. This is where he can accurately perceive my actual ”body state.” What he refers to as body state is the actual situation of my body, muscles soreness, fatigue, intensity, protection, etc.

He does have in mind what he likes me to learn but he adapts his approach to my body state. I don’t have any worry expressing any muscle soreness, because he is going to respect what I say. He is not going to judge my resistance to bend laterally to the right for instance, as “behavior” problem. Instead, he is going to identify the source of the excessive stress loading a muscle group and address and correct the root cause. Transversal rotations are largely ignored in riding and training techniques, as well as judging criteria, as well as therapies. They are ignored because they cannot be explained and never the less corrected by the erroneous concepts of stretching, release and relaxation. “One reason peoples resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain.” (Rick Godwin) I would like to rephrase the sentence saying, because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what us horses, have to gain. Uneven and inverted rotations are for a large part the root cause of poor performances. Difficulties of achieving balance control, difficulty to bend on one side, canter on one lead, flying change, lameness, navicular syndrome, etc.

On the race track. I developed an inverted rotation shifting my dorsal spines to the right while bending laterally to the left. He corrected my back muscles imbalance but told me that one in a while I will return to the problem. It is not what peoples refer to as muscle memory. The phenomenon is at the level of the nervous system and the capacity of the central patter generators involved in locomotion, to learn from each other independently from the brain. Once they have adapted to a bad movement such as inverted rotation of the thoracic vertebrae, the abnormality became normal from the perspective of the nervous system. Central pattern generators can relearn proper rotation of the dorsal spines through an equitation and gymnastic program recreating proper rotation. There are several ways to do it but this type of rehabilitation has to be done in motion as the central pattern generator involved in locomotion are turned off when we are not walking, or trotting, or cantering. 

Effectively, as he warned me, I can feel occasionally my tendency of shifting the dorsal spine of my thoracic vertebrae to the right. This can happen after a few days off where some muscles lose their tone. It can happen after a good work where some muscles develop and others adapt. Our muscular system adapts all the time and it can happen that while our overall development evolves in the right direction, our system of muscular adaptation causes transient soreness or protective reflex contraction. This is not uncommon at all and this is why he feels how I feel before deciding what would be the appropriated approach today.

It can be so settle that it is barely perceptible from the saddle. I remember once, I was not feeling any preferential rotation of my dorsal spine to the right but he told me that my rotation problem was back. He added then, “the impact of your right front leg is a little heavier than normal. It was barely perceptible from the saddle but focusing on keeping absolute equal weight on both seat bones, I can feel a small imbalance.” He addressed my back muscles imbalance using gymnastic exercises such as right shoulder in and right half pass. I participated to the gymnastic furthering his suggestions in search of greater ease. I hate to name the gymnastic exercises because simplistic equitation like to believe that movements educate our body. Truly, the move is a very small part of the rehabilitation. For instance, if he uses the shoulder in to recreate proper transversal rotation, he cannot care less about the angle of the shoulder in and if I travel on three tracks. He focus on my ability to sustain perfect verticality of my wither while adducting and abducting my forelegs. The angle of thirty degrees and three track theories are rules of presentation that are far below the teaching of Monsieur de la Gueriniere. “This lesson produces so many good results at once that I regard it as the first and the last of all those which are given to the horse in order to make him develop complete suppleness and perfect freedom in all part of his body.” (Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, Ecole de cavalerie, 1731).

He teaches me how to achieve perfect freedom of all part of my body and to do so, he does not repeat the teaching of our ancestors; he respects their wisdom upgrading their vision to actual knowledge. Perfect freedom of our body demands updated knowledge of our functional anatomy and biomechanics. This picture shows the articular process of our vertebrae where our main back muscles are inserted. Instead of a nice regular surface, the irregularities show the intensity of the forces acting and developed by our back muscles. Since our limbs are each side of our thoracolumbar column, forces are acting in oblique on our vertebral structure and resisted, redirected, stabilized, diffused by our back muscles. The work of our back muscles is considerable, powerful and precise as it is about minute amplitude but very large diversity of movements. The proper functioning of our thoracolumbar column depends on the subtle orchestration of powerful, divers, and minuscule contraction, compensatory contraction, stabilization, force production, diffusion, compensation. There is no room for stretching and relaxation. In fact, in regard to the complexity, intensity, precision of subtle orchestration of the work of our back muscles, the theories of stretching and relaxation look like fantasies that riders create in their dream and keep dreaming that such is the way our body work even when they are awaking.

As we work, his task as a rider is feeling the work of my back muscles keeping me in track or helping me when he feels that my muscular system is aiming toward compromises. He often told me, “Many riders have the feeling and finesse to feel all that but they miss and misinterpret subtleties of their feeling because they do not have in their mind the right picture. The perception is acute, but the biomechanical picture is antiquated. As long as they are brainwashed in the false concept that ease, amplitude and softness result from stretching and relaxation, they interpret your reaction in respect of these beliefs and therefore, they misinterpret your part of the conversation. Their part of the conversation is based on a biological mechanism that is not the way your physique effectively function. Many riders feel right and would have the skill to identify and correct the root cause of your errors if they were capable to understand that they and you, would have a lot to gain if they focussed on what they have to gain instead of what they have to give up.”

Then, the greatest walks of our life would be taken alone with you. These are the walks that we really love; not the ones where you are all dressed up to parade in the show ring. “A man who is empty inside must decorate himself on the outside.” (Bruce Lee)